Incentive Downshifts Evoke Search Repertoires in Rats

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Negative incentive contrast effects (NCEs) have typically been attributed to frustration or the decremental generalization of learned associations. The purpose of these experiments was to clarify the relation of NCEs to the repertoires of functional search behaviors evoked by incentive downshifts. Rats shifted from 32% to 4% sucrose-solution decreased consummatory responses but increased nose-down locomotion, orientation, location entries, and sampling of alternatives relative to unshifted controls. These changes in behavior were terminated or failed to occur under incentive upshifts. Furthermore, reward downshifts did not produce avoidance of the location of the shifted incentive. Increased search occurred whether or not alternative reward locations were available. Together the evidence suggests that NCEs are related to evoked search modes supporting a repertoire of functional behaviors related to finding food.

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